Lift Kits vs. Leveling Kits: What’s the Difference?

Whether it’s for function or form, lifting a truck is a rite of passage in any truck owner’s life. Just like a Ferrari is supposed to be low — a truck is supposed to be high. It’s built into their DNA. So you make up your mind to lift your truck and begin to do some research. Before long, your head is spinning from all the choices — lift kits, leveling kits, air suspension, load levelers — what the heck is the difference? Let’s examine two of the most popular options available, whether for serious off-roading or simply just to provide a meaner stance: lift kits vs. leveling kits.

Lift Kits

A lift kit raises your entire truck, front and rear, anywhere from a subtle 1” to high enough where you feel the need to duck under overpasses. Lift kits come in two varieties: body lift kits and suspension lift kits.

A body lift utilizes blocks and spacers to lift the body higher onto the frame of the vehicle without altering any of the suspension geometry. With a body lift kit, your ground clearance remains unchanged, but the extra height allows you to run larger wheels and tires.

The steering geometry remains unaltered as well, so your rig retains most of its original driving and handling characteristics. Stability can be negatively impacted, though, due to the increased ride height. Body lifts tend to be more affordable and easier to install than their counterparts — suspension lift kits.

While the cost may be higher and the installation substantially more involved with a suspension lift, the results are undoubtedly worth it. Suspension lifts typically involve replacing everything from the shocks/struts and leaf springs to the control arms, trailing arms and sometimes even the driveshafts and steering components.

Replacing and upgrading these components allows for more suspension articulation, more ground clearance, the ability to run even larger tires, and an all-around more capable off-road vehicle. Stability and driving dynamics can be affected, however, as your truck will now have a higher center of gravity and altered steering and suspension geometry.


Leveling Kits

From the factory, most trucks come with a certain degree of “rake” built in to their suspension, meaning the rear end sits higher than the front. The reason for this is that trucks were designed to haul heavy loads in the bed. With an extra thousand pounds in the back, the rear springs compress and cause the rear end to drop a few inches to accommodate the added weight. But since the rear started out higher than the front, this won’t create such a dramatic “sag” in the rear.

This is done for two reasons: first, if the front and rear were level and you then put 1,000 pounds in the bed, it would bottom out the suspension and cause the bushings, shocks, etc. to wear out prematurely. Second, driving with the suspension fully compressed is not only uncomfortable for the vehicle’s occupants, but also dangerous because it severely and negatively affects your truck’s handling.

A leveling kit does exactly what it sounds like — it levels the truck. By raising the front end up a few inches, you can eliminate the factory rake in your truck and bring the front and rear level. This is primarily done for looks, but it can also add a small amount of ground clearance to the front of your truck and give you the ability to run larger tires.

Another benefit of leveling kits is that since they only raise the front of your truck instead of lowering the rear, your payload capacity remains unchanged. You can still put just as much weight in the bed without fear of the suspension bottoming out. Leveling kits are a very simple design, utilizing coil spacers, strut extensions or torsion keys (depending on your truck’s suspension), and many can be installed without having to jack up your vehicle. If your goal isn’t to turn your rig into an all-out off-road warrior, and just want an aggressive stance and look from your truck, a leveling kit is the way to go.


Which One is Right?

A lift kit can truly transform your truck from a city cruiser to the off-road monster you’ve always dreamed of, but there are many factors to consider before making a decision as to which type of kit is right for you. Be sure your objectives are clear and know what you’re getting into before deciding on a particular style of lift kit. And luckily, AutoAnything has countless customer reviews from people just like you that can help you in your decision, as well as knowledgeable staff just a click or a phone call away, ready to answer any of your lift kit questions!